Truckers vocal about problems with reservation system

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Small trucking companies protested Marine Atlantic's commercial reservation system Tuesday evening.

Tuesday night police confirmed members of the Independent Truckers' Association had taken up position in the westbound lane of the Trans-Canada Highway outside the Marine Atlantic terminal in Port aux Basques.

Tractor-trailers were parked along the shoulder of the road.

"Traffic in and out of Marine Atlantic is not impeded at this time, however motorists can expect some delays and are asked to enter the area using caution and reduced speed," the RCMP said in a late-night news release.

Corner Brook -

Small trucking companies protested Marine Atlantic's commercial reservation system Tuesday evening.

Tuesday night police confirmed members of the Independent Truckers' Association had taken up position in the westbound lane of the Trans-Canada Highway outside the Marine Atlantic terminal in Port aux Basques.

Tractor-trailers were parked along the shoulder of the road.

"Traffic in and out of Marine Atlantic is not impeded at this time, however motorists can expect some delays and are asked to enter the area using caution and reduced speed," the RCMP said in a late-night news release.

RCMP members from the Port aux Basques and Stephenville detachments were on the scene late into the night directing traffic and ensuring the safety of both the truckers and the public.

The police were urging the public to be patient.

Chris Howlett, of Akita Equipment and Auto Transportation, said prior to the protest that he got the idea on Friday when it took a week for him to get a reservation to cross the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Had enough

He'd had enough and by Tuesday he was on open-line radio shows talking about a protest.

He headed to Port aux Basques from Mount Pearl.

He has a reservation for Friday, but he headed to the ferry early to give himself some time to protest the commercial reservation system, which he says is a disaster for small and last-minute trucking companies.

"We've been at this - dealing with Marine Atlantic reservations system - now for over 90 days," Hollett said. "We're not getting any indication there's going to be a change, or (that) they're doing anything for us."

Three weeks ago he met with Marine Atlantic officials, but he didn't get any response.

Around noon Tuesday, Marine Atlantic sent out a news release outlining changes to the commercial reservation system.

It is changing the cancellation deadline to 24 hours from the sailing date from 12 hours and changing the deadline to arrive at the parking lot for most trucks from three hours before sailing to two hours.

It is also implementing a waiting list and online reservations system which are being worked on, too.

That's wasn't enough to stop the protest.

Howlett had been hoping for 20 or more truckers to show up at the Marine Atlantic lineup by 8 p.m. Tuesday.

"We've got our backs against the wall," Howlett said.

"We're going out there to get some support to show Marine Atlantic this reservation system isn't working."

Handing out leaflets

Howlett and his fellow protesters say they are looking to slow down traffic getting to the ferry, and inform them of what's happening to truckers.

They were handing out leaflets outlining their concerns, and talking to people heading to the ferry about their problems.

Howlett said the reservation system needs to be scrapped.

"We can't get reservations until Friday.

"We all called ahead. I loaded up in St. John's. I have to deliver in Corner Brook and then go on to the boat empty to go to Nova Scotia to pick up. I can't get reservations until Friday so I'm going to spend my three days proactively by letting the people of Newfoundland know what we're facing every day."

Organizations: Marine Atlantic, RCMP, Independent Truckers Trans-Canada Highway

Geographic location: Port aux Basques, Corner Brook, Mount Pearl St. John's Nova Scotia Newfoundland

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